Friday, 19 September 2014

Becket's Spy Ring

Extract from a letter from John of Salisbury to Bartholemew, bishop of Exeter

John Allen Giles (1846). The Life and Letters of Thomas À Becket: Now First Gathered from the Contemporary Historians. Whittaker and Company. pp. 400–.

"Everything around us is so beset with spies and snares, that good and honest people do not dare to express their thoughts freely to one another, either by word of mouth or by letter. Iniquity is daily forming paltry schemes against innocence: conscience is constantly goading it on, and so all men and all things around them abound with treachery and suspicion."

Extract from

Frank Barlow (1990). Thomas Becket. University of California Press. pp. 129–30. ISBN 978-0-520-07175-9.

Thomas was always a fighter. He took up the struggle immediately and
pursued it to the end. He quickly established a widespread intelligence
network. Herbert was probably his spy-master and the outstations were
at Rheims (John of Salisbury), which was well placed to get news from
Germany, especially through Gerard la Pucelle, Rouen (Nicholas, prior and
guestmaster of the hospital of Mont-St-Jacques) and Poitiers (Bishop John).
The main apparent weaknesses (it has to be remembered that some secret
sources may have been successfully concealed) were the lack of really productive
agents in the papal and royal courts. Although Master Lombard joined
the curia probably at the beginning of 1169 there was never a great flow
of top-level information. And, although Thomas always had sympathizers
in the royal court, Walter de Lisle was uncovered at the end of 1166 and
the trickle of news seems never to have been sufficient to give the exiles
a full understanding of the royalist plans and manoeuvres. Also, Nicholas
soon pulled out and in the end the two Johns were discouraged. Thomas
then relied increasingly on William, archbishop of Sens, and other French
bishops and supporters. The dossier of this largely secret, and from the
king's point of view treasonable, correspondence is enormous: some 700
items; and most business was done by word of mouth.

Herbert of Bosham mentions there were secret sympathizers in the royal court,
Materials Vol iii. p. 412.


Frances Andrews; Brenda M. Bolton; Christoph Egger; Constance M. Rousseau (2004). Pope, church, and city: essays in honour of Brenda M. Bolton. Anne J. Duggan: Thomas Becket's Italian Network: BRILL. pp. 177–. ISBN 90-04-14019-0.

Charles Donahue jun., ‘Pucelle, Gerard (d. 1184)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

No comments:

Post a Comment